Best of the Maldives: CIP Arrival – Nautilus

Nautilus - CIP arrival

The Nautilus is the only resort to offer all guests a “CIP” (Commercially Important Person) arrival provide welcoming right at their parked private chartered jet or international commercial flight at Male airport. These guests also get to relax in the VIP lounge while immigration and baggage are organised avoiding the queues at the immigration hall.

Best of the Maldives: Catamaran Transfer – SAii Lagoon / Hard Rock

SAii Lagoon Hard Rock catamaran transfer

After 20+ years of travelling to the Maldives, I’m regularly surprised to find somewhat simple things that I’ve never seen before. The latest was our transfer to SAii Lagoon and Hard Rock on a catamaran speed boat. On one hand, cats are much more stable than mono-hulls, so you would think that they would be a prominent choice to provide the smoothest final leg to your Male atoll resort. But, they are more expensive so I can understand resorts choosing the lower cost vessel. One of their biggest advantages is capacity and for smaller resorts, you often don’t get more than a few folks transferring per arrival so that space is probably not worth it. But SAii Lagoon and Hard Rock (plus day visitors at The Crossroads) is a bigger complex so they can justify the expense carrying the larger boatloads.

Best of the Maldives: Shortest Private Jet Transfer – NIYAMA

NIYAMA - private jet transfer

The major point of a private jet is to avoid stopovers and transfers and just get directly from point A to point B. With so many of the super-luxury resorts a plane ride away from the main airport in Male, the most affluent look to fly their private jet straight to their island. No resorts have their own private jet runaway, but NIYAMA is a mere 7 minute boat transfer from the newly opened Dhaalu Airport.

Dhaalu Airport can now handle and process long range jets up to 111 feet in length, with ninety-six hours’ notification required to arrange a private international landing and departure, including immigration, customs and legislated health checks and requirements for arriving passengers.

I wouldn’t have included NIYAMA in the list of “super-luxury” properties that most of the private-jet-set would frequenting, but maybe this convenience will boost their appeal.

Best of the Maldives: Yellowfin Tuna Seaplane – FlyMe

FlyMe yellow fin tuna seaplane

The latest surf-faring air transfer in the Maldives with a distinctly piscatorial picture scheme is FlyMe’s “yellow tuna” inspired seaplane…

  • FlyMe is bringing four Twin Otter 300 series planes and plan to begin their operations by October. The colourful and newly designed Flyme’s seaplane livery is inspired by the yellowfin tuna, the most widely-caught, and possible the most well-known, tuna species in the Maldives.”

The flying fish in the Maldives are the biggest in the world…

Best of the Maldives Online: Ferry Transfers – Wild Maldives

Wild Maldives - ferry transfer schedule

From the high ways of water usage to the water used as highways. Maldives Complete does focus on resorts (as opposed to guest houses or general destination information like inhabited islands), but I am also trying to assemble a collection of top online links for guests to this paradise. One of my original motivations for setting up Maldives Complete was my disenchantment with the quality of websites about the Maldives. Too many sites provides a thin veneer of weak, pedestrian and dated information as a lure to get you to buy expensive holidays through them. But on Maldives Complete, the “Online” tag provides a compilation of the most useful sites.

I came upon this Wild Maldives site with ferry schedules in the Maldives TripAdvisor Forum. They describe themselves as…

  • “Development and promotion of budget travel to the Maldives.   From $50/night. Beach holidays, scuba diving, exotic fishing, adventure trips, transfers. Wild Maldives aims to develop and promote budget travel in the Republic of Maldives. We link travellers directly with the local service providers – guest houses, restaurants, speedboat operators, diving schools, guides, and many more. Ideal for the self-sufficient travellers, who don’t want to overpay for services they can easily attain by themselves through the internet, yet would appreciate a helping hand during their trip to an unknown faraway land.”

What I really appreciated was their interactive ferry schedule. The route calculation form provides a parameter driven filter engine that then displays the route options graphically on a Google Map. Two of my favourite web components – database interrogation and GIS (geographical information system).

I have taken a ferry a few times for some of my more obscure tour detours. For DIY and budget travellers, they would be a necessity for getting around. I’m not sure if there is some way to forge a cheaper price tag to your resort holiday with them. Everyone gets apprehensive about spending $200-300 for a seaplane transfer, but I had a boat transfer to Cocoa Island that cost me $500 (!) and the private transfer from Kurumba to Male (8 minutes) costs $80 (although they do offer cheaper alternatives). So maybe a leisurely and notably less luxurious ferry ride might just be a useful cost saver for some itineraries (though, in reality, nearly all resorts provide speedboat transfers free of charge, and if you are paying thousands for your week stay a few hundred will likely not be a big concern).

Best of the Maldives: Resort Shuttle – Club Med

Club Med Kani and Finolhu Villas - shuttle

All the resorts will offer transfer from the airport to their hotels. And some hotels offer trips to sister resorts. But Club Med provides a regular, scheduled boat shuttle between its Club Med Kani and Club Med Finolhu Villas properties (departing about every 90 minutes from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm on about a 10 minute journey).

The courtesy gives guests the best of both worlds between two quite different properties. All the expansive facilities of the Kani are available free of charge to all Finolhu guests as a courtesy. Kani guests can also get guest passes to visit Finolhu.

Maldives Tour 2016 – Day 2: Addu Atoll

Canareef - equator crossing

Last year’s tour took us to the very tip top of the Laccadive atolls, and this year’s trip takes us to the tippy toe – Addu (aka “Seenu”) atoll.

So far south that when you fly Maldivian Airlines, the pilot makes an announcement when you cross the Equator and the flight attendant hands out personalised “Equator Crossing Certificates” (see above photo).

Most Maldives atoll sprawl over dozens of miles and they are peppered with lots of little dots of islands inside them. You can cast a gaze on the horizon and typically see one or two of these green blots floating on the ocean. Addu, however, is one big circle of “islands”. Look on the inside of your location an you will see the thin emerald ribbon (periodically broken up) all around you. Look on the outside of your island and you will see nothing by wide open Indian Ocean (all the way to Antarctica to the south).

The one main downside to the marine topography is the limitations on classic house reef “drop offs”. These tend to be the domain of those intra-atoll little dots of which Addu doesn’t really have any. But the atoll delivers a range of other enticing attractions that might just make Addu well be worth the trip. It hosts 3 very distinctive resorts – Canareef, Shangri-La Villingili, and Equator Village. The turbo-prop transfer is about half the cost of a seaplane transfer to other islands that don’t have local airstrips (Haa Alifu to the north also has an airport). Being off the beaten path a bit means that its fine dive sites are not as crowded. We were all alone at our dive today and casting a glance on the horizon, there were only a couple of dive boats scattered among the dozens of dive sites. Famous manta haunts like Lankan and Hanafaru are so crowded that they have had to start limiting the number of divers visiting them. We were the only divers when we visited Addu’s own Manta Point (see below). The group before came up to our boat and told us they saw 9 mantas, but the current shifted and we only saw one. That said, he seemed as big as 9!’

Addu atoll feels like a sort of “Maldives Keys” (for anyone who has made the famous run down to Key West in Florida). A necklace of islands strung together surrounded on both sides by stereo ocean vistas.

Best of the Maldives: Airport Lounge Seating – Soneva Fushi

Soneva Fushi airport lounge

Most Maldives visitors coming from Europe have to take the red-eye overnight long haul flights. Unless you are reclined in First Class, these flights are exhausting and you often want to collapse when you arrive. If you have to then take a seaplane transfer you are often waiting a little while at the seaplane terminal. To take the sting out of these first moments in paradise, the luxury 5-star resorts have set up special welcome lounges with extra comforts and service.

But for sheer comfort, no lounge beat Soneva Fushi’s. Not only are their settee colourful, but they a big and broad. One family that was there with us had their kids laid out napping (and Dad joining them in an ultra-reclined state).

And if those loungers aren’t comfortable enough for you, then might I suggest that seating doesn’t get much more comfortable than their massage chair that they also feature for that extra bit of en route relaxation.

Soneva Fushi airport lounge massage

Best of the Maldives: Departure Lounge – Kurumba

Kurumba - departure lounge 1

The two most important impressions you can make are the first one and the last one. Maldives resorts put so much into their first impression – elaborate greetings, welcome cocktails, scented cold towels. And for those who have a seaplane transfer before stepping foot on the island, a small village of “arrival lounges” has sprouted at the seaplane terminal to give waiting guests a comfortable if not luxurious space to start their Maldivian chill out.

But when it is (depressingly) time to say goodbye, all too many just take a swipe of your credit card and have you sit by your luggage in reception.

A few resorts also have “arrival/departure” facilities on their island. For people who arrive before the room is ready or who have to check out of their room before their transfer is ready. These rooms have air conditioning, comfortable seating, some refreshments, changing areas, etc. You still are in a public place and often jockeying a bit with other waiting guests.

Kurumba puts the “lounge” in “departure lounge”. The room is almost entirely bed-like loungers. And they are all discreetly separated my gossamer linen dividers to provide a modest sense of seclusion. So you can extend your relaxation even more with a lie down or nap awaiting your transfer.

And just like arriving guest, the staff bring you cold towel. Making the sorrow of parting just a bit sweeter.

Kurumba - departure lounge 2

Best of the Maldives: Transfer Connections – One & Only Reethi Rah

One and Only Reethi Rah - transfer

Speaking of Internet transfers, one of my most productive surprises travelling around the Maldives was the One & Only Reethi Rah’s in-boat wifi service. Transferring between resorts on tour is one bit of interstitial time that I put to good use preparing notes and posts on the tour. Having access to the web en route was a huge windfall for me to make use of this downtime. It wasn’t that long ago that getting Internet in your room was a big deal. I still struggle to get reliable Internet connections (3g. 3G or Wifi) when I travel in Europe on a train or plane never mind a boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Alternative title – “Best High Speed Connection”.